• Shock is mired
  • If there is neither a resistance that might be vigorously combated
  • nor yet a yielding that permits of victory
  • if, instead everything is tough and inert like mire
  • movement is crippled
  • Richard Whilhelms’ Book of Changes

I have fallen behind in my self-imposed NaNoRIMo challenge because for Halloween, my horse had an episode of colic.  He was off his feed and mildly uncomfortable for a couple of days which sent me into red alert. I had just gotten new hay in and it has just started dropping down to freezing most nights and most horses drink less water when it is chilly. That the combination is the quintessential trigger for colic. An acute colic is bad enough, but can usually be handled with a variety of muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs , and mineral oil to get things moving. It is dangerous but is usually short-lived.

A mild intermittent colic usually means something has gone seriously haywire like:

  • the horse has eaten something poisonous, always a possibility with new hay
  • there is scarring and/or compromised circulation to the guts from worm damage or previous colics
  • there is a solid mass in the intestine that is intermittently blocking up the guts.
  • and so on

And once your vet  starts looking for zebras, the prognosis is not good.

However he was peeing and dropping nice big piles of slightly dry manure on a regular basis and his pulse, capillary refill, temperature, and breathing were all stable and normal. Worm damage and blockage are both unlikely as he is a young healthy active animal that has been regularly wormed and well fed. The chickens were perfectly happy to eat the hay he was ignoring and had no ill effects, so it did not seem to be toxins in the hay.

I had been putting off getting out  his heated water bucket because it has a rim on it. That means he can pick it up with his  teeth, dump out the water, unplug it, and throw it around with the electrical cord like a tether ball.  He enjoys this immensely, while I am not so enthusiastic as it drastically shortens the life of electrical devices. But, on the off-chance that warm water would increase the amount of water he was drinking, I plugged it in and filled it up. It appears that on chilly night he likes his water warm, but during the balmy day he prefers it cold. So he now has two water buckets and is drinking considerably more water.

As all vets and horse owners know, anything critical health wise always happens when it is dark and cold and windy and you can’t find either the flashlight or your gloves, so about dusk the next day I noticed he was straining to pee. And that is when I remembered that his trainer had told me that she didn’t feed straight alfalfa because it was too hard on his kidneys.  My zebra turned out to be kidney stones which are quite rare in horses as they constantly pee out excess calcium as calcium carbonate. On rare occasions a combination of dehydration and mineral imbalance can result in kidney stones in some individuals, one of which  happens to be mine.

I was greatly relieved when I began to find chalk circles glowing white everywhere he had taken a pee when I went out with my flashlight to check on him during the night. While I normally feed Northern New Mexico small growers mountain hay that is grown and baled with minimal chemical intervention I had to get some gorgeous green agribusiness mixed grass/alfalfa hay this spring when hay was hard to come by.  I will have to remember that while it may have no mold, no weeds,  and no insect damage, apparently it also has way too many chemicals and not nearly enough of the right minerals.

I had hoped that he would be his usual bouncy self come morning, but he was still gloomy, which I found even more distressing because I was starting to feel truly awful.  Of all the weird things my liver does, clearing out the muck is the worst. Ripping scar tissue, regenerating tissue, passing anything hard enough to qualify as a stone is nothing compared to getting a bunch of gunk the consistency of old window putty stuck half way. This time there was enough of it in the right spot to completely obstruct the flow of bile, and that is a miserably weird experience.  A giant inflatable liver is NOT what one’s body is set up for. Sitting up made things worse, so I had to go lie down to make sure that  the all tubes that drain to the liver ducts were open, and then breath. Yeah, it turns out all those old Taoist guys claiming that breathing properly massages your inner organs are right.  Still, it takes a while and some concentration to get the sludge to move.

Then just to top it all off, last night we had a tremendous thunder, lightning, wind, and hail storm which is very unusual for November but still left the entire place slick and muddy (It is still raining as I write!).  Plus my rickety old oak office chair that I like because it was made for women my size (5’5″) and is not an ergonomically designed monstrosity suited for  6’+ men, decided to give up the ghost and drop all the screws that attach the seat to the base onto to floor. I have pretty good balance, but not enough to type and keep my chair together at the same time. And of course, it wasn’t until after I had finally got my own insides semi-functional, that the  horse decided he was willing to  cheer up, eat, and dance about.

All of which is why I did not manage to write any fiction for some days…NaNoRiMo may have to wait till next year. All though the story does like to pop up and wander about the back of my head as soon as I am horizontal, it still flees immediately I sit up.

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